How to do Castor Oil Therapy the Easy Way

I vividly remember my first experience with castor oil... 

As part of my first yoga teacher training I was instructed to do a castor oil bath as part of several ancient yoga cleansing practices called kriya. This consisted of slathering the entire body with castor oil, allowing it to penetrate for 15-20 minutes and then using steam or a hot shower to penetrate the oil more deeply before rinsing it off. I asked my boyfriend (now fiancé) to partake in the ritual, and the concept piqued his interest.
What no one tells you is how thick, sticky and messy castor oil is. It was a struggle to fully lather up and once fully covered in oil, realizing you have to stand around stark naked like an idiot, reminiscent of a sticky toddler unable to touch anything. When it came to rinsing off the oil, an all-natural castille soap was recommended and I laughed hysterically going through nearly half of the bottle trying to remove all of the oil (emphasize "try"). One kriya down, we went about our day.
A couple hours later, we were completely incapacitated. Incredibly fatigued and every limb heavy, our plans for the rest of the day were spoiled. I slept soundly that night, the next day back to my yoga routine and continuing with the Sattva cleanse. However, my partner wasn't so fortunate; two days after the castor bath he was still out of commission. At the time he was training full-time as an Ironman triathlete and my theory is the amount of residual metabolic by-products in his muscles from long-distance training were released in one go, the body unable to keep up with eliminating them. Worse yet, his shower was coated in a sticky film and drain didn't... well, 'drain'.
Giggle. Oh, how far we've come...

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Anyone who has visited a Naturopathic physician or has been around the natural health lifestyle for some time may have come across the tried and true therapy of Castor Oil packs. 
My parents' generation is no stranger to castor oil, but as an internal remedy for constipation as a strong purgative and stimulating laxative. While I think castor oil is an effective and powerful medicine, I suggest external use only.

How does Castor oil work?

Castor oil is made from the castor bean, Ricinus communis, that contains a compound called ricinoleic acid. As an oil it is able to penetrate the skin deeply and promoted further with heat administration. Ricinoleic acid acts as an irritant, drawing circulation with "fresh blood" to the area of application. With increased circulation, there is greater capacity for detoxification, or flushing of the organ to promote elimination. This is really important for the desired action on internal organs.

The nature of the oil is more hydrophilic, or "water-loving" than most oils. As such, it acts as a humectant, drawing moisture to where it is applied. This is one reason it is so effective for treating skin conditions (not outlined in this article) such as scars or dry-type eczema, or combined with other oils for washing your face via the oil cleansing method.

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An instructor of mine joked about castor oil's indication in women in that it can be applied "boobs to pubes" to benefit female pathologies as well as congested lymph from underwire bras.
Castor oil packs are often prescribed for: 

  • Muscle or ligamentous strains & sprains
  • Inflammatory digestive concerns
  • Increasing liver function for supported elimination (i.e., 'detox') including hormone metabolism
  • Gynaecological concerns including: uterine fibroids and fibrocystic breasts

**As always, consult your Naturopathic physician to assess if Castor oil is a beneficial therapy for you.**

If you've read previous articles of mine, I'm all about ease. If a therapy cannot be well integrated into my life, the odds of it finding a space in my routine are slim. The traditional castor oil pack involves soaking flannel with castor oil, wrapping it around your abdomen often with saran wrap, and applying heat. To me, this is too much clean up and a hot mess waiting to happen. Of course, there is an easier way. 

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  1. Measure a dime to quarter-size amount of castor oil in your palm.
  2. Apply to desired area
    If applying to abdomen, rub in a clock-wise motion to correspond with direction of digestion.
  3. If on abdomen, wear an old t-shirt that you don't mind staining, and apply a hot water-bottle overtop
  4. Relax with heat for 15-20 minutes (or longer). 
  5. Wear oil overnight. Remove oil with a natural soap in the morning if not fully absorbed
    (it should be-- if not, you're likely using too much oil for the area).
  6. Repeat every night before bed, re-using your shirt until it needs to be discarded.
    Dispose of t-shirt. Do NOT attempt to wash or you could have a hefty washing-machine repair.

Tricks for better Castor oil therapy

Pictured here is   Pokeroot-infused Castor oil
    As my fiancé and I learned the hard way, less is more when it comes to detox. If you've never used castor oil before, start with a dime-size and spread over a larger area on your abdomen. Maybe skip heat the first time to ease into the therapy.
    This therapy can be draining, so I find the best time to do this is when you're winding down your evening. You can build this into your bedtime ritual and get the most out of your medicine (and less clean-up) by allowing the oil to penetrate overnight
    Like any therapy that moves lymph or detoxifies, it's important to drink plenty of water to move wastes out of the body.
    Because the oil is easily absorbed by your skin, it's important that it's not pulling in harmful chemicals with in. It's okay to spend the extra bit of money because a little of castor oil goes a long way.
    All electrical appliances create an electromagnetic frequency (EMF) that are best avoided if possible. Use a hot water bottle or heat pack.
    Because of castor oil's incredible capacity to penetrate the skin, you can infuse castor oil as a means of medicine delivery. I love different lymphatic herbs for this purpose.

When to AVOID Castor oil therapy:

  • Open wounds and broken skin
  • Pregnancy
  • Undiagnosed masses in abdomen, pelvis or breasts
  • Extremely heavy periods
    Castor oil is great for painful periods especially if related to "blood stasis" in Chinese medicine, but remember it increases circulation and can worsen your heavy period.
    Also, it's important to get to the root cause as to
    why you're having painful periods in the first place.

Ever tried Castor oil Therapy before?
Comment below or tag me on instagram @bealutz with #herbinfusedlife

 ♥ B.